‘We need more mediocre women!’

Edmond E, & McGowan J, 2017, ‘We need more mediocre women!’, Overland, Summer 2017, retrieved 11 February 2018, https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/issue-229/essay-maura-edmond-and-jasmine-mcgowan/

An excellent article about the structural issues bound up in the criteria for excellence!


“The two concepts have been around long enough to have earned their fair share of scorn and critique. In a 2015 essay for Overland, and again in When the Goal Posts Move, part of Currency House’s Platform Paper series, Ben Eltham argues that the excellence paradigm is little more than dog-whistle politics for the arts. Excellence and innovation seem like self-evidently good values – who doesn’t want to experience art or culture that is great and groundbreaking? As a result, the values themselves tend not to have been the target of criticism, just their application.

In practice, ‘excellence’ is not nearly as nimble a criterion as it ought to be. Instead of reflecting the best of the best in all its variance, excellence as an evaluative framework has congealed around a set of meanings: major institutions, high production values, established canons, heritage arts and so on. The net result, says Eltham, is that ‘the current funding paradigm favours the dead, the white and the male over the living, the not-white and the female. It favours the old over the new.’

But the issues run deeper than that. Excellence, at least in its current use, is difficult to reconcile with a lot of feminist creative practice. Whether by choice or necessity, feminist art- and culture-making has, for the best part of a century, embraced collective organising, DIY-production practices, transgressive values and an anti-establishment ethos. You can chart this approach across collaborative theatre practices of the early 1900s in Europe and North America, to women’s film co-ops of the 1970s and 1980s, the art activism of groups like Guerrilla Girls, Pussy Riot and Sydney’s the Kingpins, and punk-inflected DIY music scenes like no wave, riot grrrl and the Melbourne-based LISTEN collective.”

#gender #diversity #daversity

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